Survival-horror is a style of game that has been declining in quality lately. Once “Resident Evil” decided to take a less-than-stellar turn, the market was taken over by more action-oriented horror games, such as the “Dead Space” series.
While there were some great horror games coming from the indie side, like “Amnesia: The Dark Descent,” there hadn’t really been a successful, well-made survival-horror game from the industry side of things for a while. The developer Naughty Dog promised to remedy this situation with their game, “The Last of Us.”
“The Last of Us” takes place about 20 years after a worldwide break out of a fungal infection that turned everyday people into frightening, zombie-like abominations.
The story centers on the now middle-aged Joel, who has gotten by in this post-apocalyptic environment by working as a smuggler, and Ellie, a young girl who Joel is tasked with to deliver to a resistance group known as The Fireflies. In their first meeting, Joel and Ellie are rather uncomfortable with each other, Joel even acting a bit hostile toward her at first.
Throughout the story, however, they grow accustomed to each other and end up with a rather close relationship. While the story seems to be rather straightforward, there are unexpected turns in the plot.
In addition, Joel, Ellie and the other characters they encounter, not to mention the actions of other survivors, all make the story feel engaging and evoke an attachment to the world that Naughty Dog has created. Of course, the only way to experience this is through the gameplay.
“The Last of Us” is, at its core, a survival-horror game, and the game has quite a number of the tropes one would find in a game of this variety, including elements such as limited supplies, a general disadvantage to enemies one comes across and at least one disempowering act upon the player (in this game’s case, gun sway is implemented).
The game’s crafting system occurs in real time, forcing the player to either wait until a safe situation to create valuable items or risk taking damage during combat. The limited supplies angle really works well here, where ingredients can be used to make multiple items, forcing the player to use their valuable resources on an item that they don’t know for sure will be put to good use.
The game also allows the player to approach a situation as they see fit, whether that be taking a stealthy approach to eliminate all enemies undetected or run in with guns blazing. While the stealth system the game uses is rather shallow, it still feels incredibly rewarding to clear an area without being spotted.
These elements are not only important to the horror genre in general but were included as a major design element by Naughty Dog, which can make it disappointing when the game doesn’t keep some of these elements consistent throughout its entirety.
Unlike a lot of horror games, “The Last of Us” has the problem of becoming progressively easier. Most, if not all, of the player’s disadvantages can be eliminated through the game’s upgrade system. While the player starts with a single moderately-powerful weapon, this list is increased to 12 by the end of the game.
When more weapons are introduced into the game the limited supplies (in terms of ammo) begins to become irrelevant. The game continues to give limited ammo, but it gives limited ammo to every weapon owned by the player, making it so that if one were to run out of ammo for a gun they were using, there are 11 replacement weapons ready to be switched so that all weapons will have an ample amount of ammo, which makes getting caught while being stealthy feel more like a minor inconvenience than the perilous situation it was toward the beginning of the game.
The game’s AI is also a point of concern. “The Last of Us” was designed so that if one of the player’s partner AI were to run out and be spotted by enemies, the enemies wouldn’t react. While this feature keeps the game from feeling unfair, it also breaks the immersion factor a little.
Overall though, “The Last of Us” is quite an admirable piece of software. While it may not be a perfect masterpiece, it is a game to behold and I would definitely recommend that anyone with access to a Playstation 3 play this game.